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Posts Tagged ‘Mr Darcy’s Secret’

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you’ve all enjoyed a lovely holiday over the festive season!  Thank you to everyone for visiting my site during the last year, and for those who leave their kind comments on the blog, it really gladdens my heart. An especial thank you goes to all those lovely readers who take the time to write to me individually, and to the wonderful blogging community out there who are always so supportive. I’m very excited that the time for publication of Mr Darcy’s Secret is getting nearer – just a month away – thank you to everyone who have expressed such interest in my new book.
I hope 2011 brings you all health and happiness – I’ve not started too well myself, I’m battling with flu at the moment, but I had to tell you this exciting news from Laurel Ann at Austenprose. I am thrilled to be a part of her short story anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest 2011 graphicThe Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Short Story Contest Begins
January 1, 2011
In conjunction with the publication of the new anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Ballantine BooksAustenprose.com, and The Republic of Pemberley are pleased to announce an online short story contest.  Enter for a chance to win the Grand Prize: publication of your entry in the anthology – a collection of original short stories inspired by the life and works of popular English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817).  Hosted by the Jane Austen web site The Republic of Pemberley, the contest begins on January 1, 2011. Publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It is tentatively scheduled for publication by Ballantine in Fall 2011.
Contest Highlights
  • Eligibility: Previously unpublished U.S. residents over the age of 18
  • Entries must be approximately 5,000 words in length
  • Manuscript submission January 1 – February 13, 2011
  • Voting for the Top Ten finalists February 14 – 28, 2011
  • Top Ten finalists announced on March 1, 2011
  • One Grand Prize winner receives $500.00 and a contract for publication in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It
  • Grand Prize winner announced Fall 2011 in conjunction with the official release by Ballantine Books (Random House, Inc.) of Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Jane Austen Made Me Do It contains more than twenty best-selling and popular authors who have contributed short stories inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and her philosophies of life and love. From historical continuations of her plots and characters to contemporary spinoffs and comedies, the stories encapsulate what we love about our favorite author: romance, social satire and witty humor. Contributing to the line-up are best-selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation series), Laurie Viera Rigler (The Jane Austen Addict series), Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), Stephanie Barron (Being A Jane Austen Mystery series), and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Many Austenesque authors and others from related genres have also contributed stories to the project. One spot in the anthology remains open for the lucky Grand Prize winner.
The anthology’s editor, Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose.com, is very excited at the prospect of discovering the next star in the burgeoning sub-genre of Jane Austen sequels and inspired books. “Jane Austen has been inspiring writers for close to two hundred years. It seems quite fitting that she should be the witty muse of our anthology and short story contest. Encouraging writing and discovering new talent is in spirit with her true legacy. I am ‘all anticipation’ of what will develop, and am honored to be part of the selection team.”
Visit the official Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest web page for official contest rules and eligibility requirements.  Best of luck to all entrants.
“[S]uppose as much as you chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.” Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 60

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Laurel Ann from the fabulous Austenprose blog has very kindly invited me to guest blog as part of her Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Group Read. If you’ve not been keeping up with all the fascinating posts do head on over there – there’s something of interest for all fans of Pride and Prejudice. I was thrilled when Laurel Ann asked me if I’d write about the main hero and heroine of the novel especially as I’ve just finished a continuation of Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are perhaps Jane Austen’s most beloved characters. Pride and Prejudice was written more than two hundred years ago, yet these characters remain as fresh and irresistibly fascinating to us as they were for the first generations that read their tale, and remain the standard by which all other characters in a love story are judged.
So, why do we love them so much? Jane Austen tells their story through Elizabeth’s eyes so it’s easy to identify with this heroine who is lively, witty, and loveable as much for her faults as for her charms. We identify with her because we feel she is like us. She is capable of making mistakes, but having realised her errors, she changes and grows as a result. We see her character develop as the story enfolds.
The first time we really meet Elizabeth it is at the Meryton Assembly where the proud Mr Darcy is also in attendance with his affable friend Mr Bingley. There is a lack of gentlemen at the ball, and Lizzy has to sit out for two dances. Mr Darcy is seen to be behaving in a particularly disagreeable manner. He only dances with Mr Bingley’s sisters and ignores everyone else in the room. Everyone has heard that he is a rich landowner, but his wealth and power coupled with his anti-social manners only serve to make him appear arrogant. He doesn’t seem to care that his words may be overheard or that his speech is insulting. In fact, he is almost goading Elizabeth whom he has heard described as a pretty girl. He actually makes sure that Lizzy is looking at him before he speaks. It’s almost as if he wants her to hear, and make her aware that he can attract, and have any woman in the room.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”
It’s a real put down, and as an unsurprising consequence, she dislikes him instantly!
At this stage, we also think he’s horrid, and I doubt there are many people who stop and wonder at the psychology behind his behaviour. It’s only when their relationship starts to develop that we think about the undeniable ‘chemistry’ between them, and question their attraction to one another from what seems such an unpromising start.
To our utter delight, Mr Darcy finds himself attracted to her even though he is determined to find fault with her, and when she refuses to stand up with him for a dance we rejoice at her opportunity for revenge. The lively banter that ensues between them is what makes their relationship so satisfying. In every respect, Elizabeth proves herself equal in intelligence. She is no simpering female. When they are thrown together at the Netherfield Ball, Darcy begins to enjoy Lizzy’s lively conversation and pert manners. Although she is determined to continue her dislike of him, she agrees to dance with him before she can help herself. The conversation that flies between them is an exercise in brilliant dialogue as each of them tries to better the other with a witty retort. Elizabeth is beginning to realize that however fixed her first impressions of Darcy seemed initially, her opinion of him is changing. She recognizes that they have similarities in their characters; they both like to think that they can use their intellect coupled with a wry sense of humour to win an argument or to make a point all meted out in an economy of language.
“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy – I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said. Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But now we may be silent.”
“Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?”
“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together; and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged, as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible.”
“Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?”
“Both,” replied Elizabeth archly; “for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”
“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure,” said he. “How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.

They behave for the most part as opposing forces that cannot help being attracted to the other. Elizabeth prides herself on reading the psychology of people – she likes to know what makes them tick. The infuriating thing is that she cannot make Darcy out, when she thinks she has the upper hand, he then seizes power to have the whip hand over Elizabeth.
Just as we imagine that the couple is warming toward one another, something happens to make Lizzy despise Mr Darcy even more. She witnesses his snubbing of Mr Wickham and when the latter claims that Darcy has mistreated him she dislikes him even more. Elizabeth is swayed by Mr Wickham’s charming manner and has no reason to doubt his word. Darcy’s general behaviour has prejudiced her view of him, and so she takes Wickham’s part.
One of the reasons we love Elizabeth is because she is fiercely independent and knows her own mind. When Mr Collins proposes, we know she should accept him, but she refuses to compromise on her principles being prepared to go against the wishes of her mother. Elizabeth knows her prospects to marry well are bleak due to her lack of a good dowry, and even though the likely outcome is that she will remain a spinster, she remains true to her beliefs unlike her friend Charlotte Lucas who ultimately marries Mr Collins. Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. We admire her because she is rebellious, but also because she recognizes her own faults.
Elizabeth is not impressed by Darcy’s wealth and position alone, his character is what interests her, and initially she thinks he is rather shallow when he judges women by their accomplishments alone. He obviously thinks no woman is worthy of his consideration unless she is ‘accomplished’ and when he says he knows of only a half dozen women like this Elizabeth retaliates.
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
It is the continual sparring between Elizabeth and Darcy that we especially enjoy. One of them says something designed to provoke the other, and we wait with bated breath to hear their reaction. Darcy responds to Miss Bingley playing a Scotch air on the pianoforte by suggesting that Elizabeth might feel the impulse to dance a reel. Lizzy knows this is a veiled insult – he’s already mentioned that ‘every savage can dance’, and reels are generally danced by the lower orders.
Elizabeth replies, “…You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all – and now despise me if you dare.”
Of course, Mr Darcy does not dare.
In order to fully understand Elizabeth’s character we must know something of the expected manners and customs of the time. Young women led sheltered lives amongst family members and had little freedom. Lizzy loves walking around Meryton and the surrounding area unchaperoned which at the time would have been seen as most inappropriate behaviour for a young lady. Walking through mud and jumping over stiles to visit her sister at Netherfield would not have been deemed as the correct way to conduct herself.
Darcy’s character is a composition in contrasts. On the one hand he exhibits reservations about the behaviour of certain Bennet family members, but Elizabeth’s own individual quirkiness and her efforts to go against convention only intrigue him. He likes what he sees as her athleticism, and when Miss Bingley tries to make Elizabeth appear less worthy in his eyes by pointing out her muddy petticoat, and the fact that he would not let his sister tramp about alone in the countryside, his increasing attraction to Elizabeth is observed when he remarks that ‘her eyes were brightened by the exercise.’
Mr Darcy famously refers to Elizabeth’s ‘fine eyes’, and indeed, Jane Austen uses eyes in many instances to show the growing attraction between the couple. Here are a few instances:
Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush.

Elizabeth could not help observing, as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her.

They were confined for the evening at different tables, and she had nothing to hope, but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself.
When Darcy realizes he is so in love with Elizabeth that there’s no turning back, he asks her to marry him. His proposal is ungracious; he declares he is going against his own sense in asking her to be his wife. Lizzy, in true fashion throws his words and proposal back at him saying she cannot return his feelings, and declares her anger at the way he treated Wickham.
“…from the first moment, I may almost say – of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
We know that Elizabeth would be set up for life if she marries him but her principles are admirable. She is not going to marry a man simply because he is rich. She is prejudiced against him for the characteristics she deplores – his haughtiness, his pride, and because he has assumed that she will jump at the chance to be his wife. At this point Darcy is outraged. As far as he is concerned he thinks he is offering what any woman could possibly want to make their dreams come true – his estate at Pemberley, and his fortune. He also wants to put the record straight about Wickham. Darcy writes Elizabeth a letter, and this is an interesting illustration of his character. Why doesn’t he go and see her, to explain in person? Perhaps his pride prevents it. After all, she has rejected him. He may be good at a quick comeback, but he seems more reserved when it comes to expressing his feelings and thoughts. I think we begin to question whether his haughtiness is simply masking a real insecurity; perhaps he is reserved and a little shy in company. It maybe that his discomfort in society and his inability to be at ease in social situations makes him appear to be arrogant when this is not the case. We learn from Mrs Reynolds, his housekeeper, who has known him since he was a small boy that he is far from being an intimidating tyrant. She describes him as being good-natured, sweet-tempered and generous-hearted. Praise indeed!
In her turn, when Lizzy reads the letter with the explanation that Wickham tried to elope with Georgiana Darcy, her first impressions are questioned.
We see another side of Darcy when he and Elizabeth meet again at Pemberley. Mrs Reynolds’s warm appraisal, his changed manner, plus his beautiful house and grounds make Lizzy see him through new eyes. She is beginning to fall in love with him. He is pulling out all the stops to impress her. It’s clear he’s been thinking about what she said to him, and he is trying to change for the better. He is kind to her uncle and aunt, and does not display his former snobbishness toward them. Darcy goes out of his way to be sociable inviting them all to an evening party and introducing his sister.
After learning the truth about Wickham, Elizabeth realizes that there is always more than one way of looking at things. She comes to know the real Mr Darcy as he lets his guard down and when she discovers the quiet way in which he saves her sister Lydia from ruin hence making it possible for their eventual alliance, Elizabeth knows she has been wrong to judge him. Darcy falls in love eventually for all the right reasons – Elizabeth’s intelligence and lively ways have captivated him, and he enjoys the fact that she is not afraid of him or sycophantic toward him. They both change to suit the other because they really love one another unreservedly. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth both make mistakes, but try to put them right and because they admit to their shortcomings, we love them all the more!

Laurel Ann contributed this wonderful passage which shows so perfectly how Mr Darcy has changed for the better by the end of the novel. “Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 58

My novel, Mr Darcy’s Secret will be published by Sourcebooks in February, 2011. My editor just sent me the cover today which is beautiful – I’m so excited, and can’t wait to hold it in my hands!

After capturing the heart of the richest man in England, Elizabeth Darcy believes her happiness is complete until mysterious affairs involving Mr Darcy’s past, and concerns over his sister Georgiana’s own troubled path to happiness present Elizabeth with fresh challenges to test her integrity, honour, and sweet nature as she fights her old fears and feelings of pride and prejudice. However, nothing can daunt our sparkling and witty heroine or dim her sense of fun as Elizabeth and the powerful, compelling figure of Mr Darcy take centre stage in this romantic tale set against the dramatic backdrops of Regency Derbyshire and the Lakes amongst the characters we love so well.

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I’d like to wish you all a Happy Easter – I’m having a bit of a break from blogging to spend time with my family – I hope you all have a lovely holiday. This is quite a long post but one thing seemed to lead to another! I’m very busy writing another book at the moment and drawing on lots of research which is always lots of fun. A lot of the action takes place in Bath so I’m hoping to spend some time there over the holiday period.
This week, one of the lovely things that happened was ‘meeting’ Jennifer Duke and discovering her blog. She was born in England and even attended the the Abbey school as Jane Austen did. Her time there sparked an interest in all things Regency and a love of Jane Austen. Jennifer lives in Australia now and told me that although she loves Sydney, she still gets homesick for England. She wrote to ask me if I would do a question and answer for her blog, which I was thrilled to do. Here’s the link: The Bennet Sisters Thank you very much Jennifer, I really enjoyed your interview.

This time last year I had Easter with Mr Darcy – click on the Derbyshire, Chatsworth and Haddon Hall links on the left of my blog if you’d like to see what a lovely time I had. When we were there most of Chatsworth House was covered in scaffolding as it is undergoing major restoration – Chatsworth Masterplan. My sister phoned me yesterday to tell me how she’d seen a little about how the work is progressing on a programme we have here called Countryfile. You can watch it here on the BBC iplayer Countryfile. Apart from gorgeous walks around Dovedale, there is some footage from Chatsworth showing how the house is being restored and the stone cleaned. It looks very beautiful. I particularly loved the gilded window frames which are original to the house. I’ve been there when the sun is at a certain height and the effect upon the house is stunning. I would love to see it again when the work is finished. I should imagine it is spectacular.

This next little piece of writing was inspired by the walk I took along the River Derwent when I was writing Mr Darcy’s Secret.

Elizabeth was more worried about the impending visit from Mr Darcy’s aunt than she was prepared to let on, but was determined not to dwell on any misgivings she might have. There was quite enough to deal with simply in organizing such details as food and menus, and which bedchamber Lady Catherine was to occupy, without being anxious about any conversation they might share. At least Miss de Burgh, Lady Catherine’s daughter would not be accompanying her. Apparently, Anne was staying behind with her companion Mrs Jenkinson in the hope that the change of air and spa water would do her some good. Sickly, pale and cross, the spoiled cousin of Mr Darcy had never enjoyed good health, and Elizabeth knew that no expense would be spared in the efforts to revive the spirits of this despondent creature, though she considered it unlikely that any amount of money or treatments would make a jot of difference. Privately, Elizabeth felt quite sorry for the girl who had never been allowed to live a normal life. In her opinion Anne had not only been spoiled, but had also been fussed over and mollycoddled to the point of suffocation. No wonder the girl was awkward in company and socially inept – she was never allowed to speak and would not dare oppose her mother’s beliefs or statements on any topic. Besides all this, Lady Catherine’s hopes for an alliance between her daughter and Mr Darcy had been thwarted, and as such, Lizzy was sure that Anne would avoid coming to Pemberley altogether if she possibly could. At least Lady Catherine was not due for another week; Lizzy would have time to fully prepare.

Elizabeth’s own spirits were subdued. The Christmas celebrations and Georgiana’s engagement, not to mention the awkwardness that subsisted between Lizzy and Darcy as a result, had all taken its toll. Mrs Darcy was feeling tired, and lacking in energy, which was so extraordinary that she felt some concern. Determined to find a solution she decided she was in need of some fresh air and exercise; being cooped up inside because of the bad weather was never good. She formed a plan to walk to Lambton in the afternoon, but made a decision not to inform anyone else. Eliza had a feeling that Mr Darcy might not approve of his wife going about the Pemberley estates unaccompanied and without a carriage, whatever he might once have thought about her eyes being brightened by the exercise of walking. He need never know; his time was taken up with estate matters on Wednesdays.

Donning her sturdiest boots and a beloved cloak from her Longbourn days, which was warm and comfortable if not considered as smart as others in her new wardrobe, she set off. Out of doors, Elizabeth instantly felt better in the fresh air with a light rain misting her features, the smell of Derbyshire limestone and the scent of moss sprinkled like green jewels upon stone walls assailing her senses. Following the river on the shortcut to Lambton bridge, she took pleasure in observing the riverbank twisting and curving with the rushing water moving swiftly in between, glinting like steel knives when the afternoon sun decided to make a brief appearance. Ancient trees dipped their gnarled fingers into the rushing torrent as their branches arched over her head dripping raindrops onto her hood. Walking was sublime exercise when the outlook was so beautiful and Lizzy made rapid progress becoming almost disappointed as the sight of a few scattered cottages and the medieval bridge with its five arches and triangular cutwaters came into view. Crossing the bridge she paused to watch the waterbirds for a moment. There were few people about and of those who walked none seemed to take much notice of her for which she was grateful. She knew if she had arrived in a carriage or dressed in her best pelisse it might have been a different matter. It was lovely to be anonymous for a change and the sense of freedom that she felt such as she had enjoyed in the old days almost overwhelmed her. Chiding herself for being silly and sentimental she continued over the bridge and turned into the lane leading to the High Street. It had been her intention to turn round and walk straight back to Pemberley, but now she was here she was struck by the idea of calling on Mrs Butler. That she could send news to her Aunt Gardiner about her friend seemed a wonderful idea.

The bridge I had in my head was the one at Bakewell which dates from the thirteenth century. Here’s a link to some lovely photographs of Bakewell and its famous bridge. My own photos of Bakewell can be found by clicking on the sidebar.

Finally – what was Lydia Bennet up to in April? Here’s an extract from Lydia Bennet’s Story – I hope you enjoy it!

Harriet paused, her chestnut curls trembling with animation and her eyes sparkling with amusement. “Just as we thought a certain couple on the point of announcing their betrothal, Mary King has left to stay with her uncle in Liverpool! It is reported that she had so many bandboxes, it looked as if she was going for good!

“George Wickham is said to be suffering her absence greatly,” added Isabella, “as he has been seen going around the town with an air of despondency the like of which has never been seen in him before. I daresay you may have seen it for yourself if you chanced to pass him in the High Street this morning.”

“We have not had that misfortune thankfully, though I have a mind to say that I would not expect him to be mourning the loss of Miss King’s affection,” Lydia immediately answered, unbuttoning her pelisse. “It is far more likely that he is feeling the deprivation to his pocketbook. No wonder you say he looks as though he’s lost a shilling and found a groat!”

“So, Lizzy may get him after all,” said Kitty, voicing her thoughts out loud.

“They will be able to marry in Longbourn church before the summer is out; how delightful!” Harriet exclaimed, pouring tea into china bowls. “I do love a happy ending.”

Lydia could not think why the idea of her sister marrying Mr Wickham did not fill her mind with the same enrapt effusions, but she admitted to herself that it did not. Perhaps it was the idea that her sister might be the first to marry and, therefore, enjoy all the attention that would bring. Try as she might, Lydia felt most jealous of the notice and affection that was bestowed upon Elizabeth, particularly by her father. Except to tell her how silly she was, Lydia could not recall a single comment that her papa had ever made, let alone one in her favour. Despite the appearance Lydia gave of caring little for his remarks, she longed for him to say a kind word. By every unlucky turn of fate, her attempts to please him always ended in disaster, which had the effect of vexing him all the more. And on top of Mr Bennet’s adoration of Lydia’s eldest sisters, every young man in Hertfordshire seemed smitten with Jane and Lizzy. Not only were her sisters considered to be great beauties, but they also enjoyed countless opportunities to exhibit their loveliness to its greatest potential. If a new gown or a new bonnet were to be had, Jane and Elizabeth were treated first. It was very hard sometimes, Lydia thought, not to be envious when the best compliment she ever received was that she was tall and “handsome” and her best dress was a hand-me-down that even Mary, who had no interest in fashion, had turned down.

Well, apart from her own feelings, she felt she knew her sister Lizzy well enough, and Lydia was not convinced that the latter still held a torch for Mr Wickham. “I would not be surprised if Elizabeth has fallen in love with someone in Hunsford,” she said out loud.

“Has Mr Collins a brother?” asked Harriet, who had them all falling about with laughter at the very idea.

“Lord, no!” Lydia cried. “Thank goodness that there is only one such odious gentleman as Mr Collins in this world, though I daresay if he had a brother, he would have proposed to my sister Lizzy also. No, there is another gentleman, I believe, who is courting my sister. She has been in the company of Mr Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, very much of late, and I am inclined to think that the Colonel may be the man. After all, it could not very well be Mr Darcy!”

They all laughed again at the idea of Mr Darcy being Elizabeth’s suitor. The gentleman had lately been staying in Hertfordshire with his friend, Mr Bingley, and though the neighbourhood (and Lydia’s sister Jane in particular) had warmed to the latter, Mr Darcy had been found to be very proud and disagreeable, fancying himself above all the company.

“Well, now I have a tale to cheer us all up,” Penelope started. “I will tell you all about my friend Caroline and her brother Edward, twins and alike as two peas in a pod. They were invited to a fancy costume ball and, having no particular apparel, decided to dress as one another. Edward was squeezed into his sister’s gown!”

“And what did Caroline wear?” begged Lydia. “Did she don her brother’s breeches?”

“Yes she did! Can you think of anything more shocking?” cried Penelope. “And not only did she completely look the part of a man, but Edward fooled the entire party.”

“Did they really think he was his sister?” asked Kitty.

“Well, I’m told none doubted him for a moment,” Penelope replied. “He was applied to for ever so many dances!”

Penelope’s description of Edward’s dress and toilette diverted them so excessively, that when one of the officers, Mr Chamberlayne, called half an hour later, he was not only kidnapped for the rest of the day but forced into allowing them to dress him likewise. Kitty ran to her Aunt Phillips’ house just around the corner to procure a gown and a wig, whilst the rest of them prepared to get him ready.

Lydia and Harriet trapped young Chamberlayne in Harriet’s dressing room as soon as he could be persuaded to accompany them upstairs.

“We promise we won’t come in until you are ready to have your corset laced,” Lydia called through the door, to the amusement of the other girls who hovered outside, “but do not take too long. We would not wish to take you by surprise. In any case, there is no need to be so shy, Mr Chamberlayne. Harriet has seen it all before. Just say the word if you need any help; we’re awfully good at undoing buttons, you know!”

Harriet, Penelope, and Isabella did all they could to smother their giggles. Lydia was in her element. “I’ll lace his corset so long as you all help to pull,” she commanded as the door opened to admit them. Penelope and Isabella stood on the threshold with their mouths gaping wide open, unsure whether they should join in. “Don’t just stand there, Pen, give me a hand,” Lydia cried, as the young officer was set on before he knew what was happening. “Isabella, help me pull harder. Quick, before he changes his mind! It will all be over in a minute, Mr Chamberlayne; stand still, I beg you.”

By the time they had done with him, they were all feeling rather jealous of his pretty looks and even he admitted he was a beauty. He was laced and frocked in a muslin gown with a scarlet cloak and a bonnet topped with feathers and flowers. He had eyelashes that any young miss would be proud to possess and they all agreed (even he) that a little rouge and powder went a very long way to improve the complexion! Colonel Forster came in just ten minutes later, after being disturbed by all the noise, and was almost fooled until Lydia could not resist telling him the truth.

A while later some of the other officers arrived, all looking quite as splendid in their regimentals as ever. Lydia thought Mr Wickham looked particularly dashing this morning, his brown curls waving over his head to fall on his stiff, braided collar. His eyes met hers as he entered the room. So brazen was his expression that she caught her breath and felt obliged to turn immediately to Kitty as if she had remembered something of great importance.

“Have you heard any interesting or diverting snippets of gossip lately, Mr Wickham?” quipped Mr Denny as he walked through the door.

“Why, now you come to mention it, dear fellow,” Wickham replied, taking up his stance for all to see him, “I did hear two handsome young ladies in earnest conversation on my way here.”

“How splendid! Pray, Wickham, were these delightful creatures known to you?”

“Why yes, two of the fairest girls in Meryton struck up a most enchanting discourse.” Mr Wickham laughed at his own comic efforts and pitching his voice several octaves higher, with his lips pursed, he played his joke, impersonating Kitty and Lydia by turns.

“Kitty, that fellow over there is vexing me greatly,” he smirked and simpered, looking straight into Lydia’s eyes, with a pat of his curls, before he leapt around on the other side to take up Kitty’s corner. “How can that be, Lydia, when he is not even looking at you?” he trilled next, with one hand on his hip. He paused, as they all started to shout, before delivering his final assault. “That, my dear Kitty, is precisely what’s vexing me!”

The entire company could not, or would not, scold him they were laughing so much. Lydia thought him shameless and had soon told him so, as she did her best to disguise her embarrassment. She felt him watching her, but when she dared to look again, she was disappointed to see that she no longer held his attention. Suddenly, every eye was turned upon the young lady whom the officers had not seen before. Lydia was highly amused to see every soldier smooth his hair and adjust his cuffs, before vying for a position where they could admire her more closely.

Colonel Forster performed the introductions so seriously that it was near impossible for Lydia and the others to keep their countenances. “I am particularly pleased to be able to present our own dear Chamberlayne’s sister, Miss Lucy, who has come to enjoy Meryton’s society for a few days.”

“Lucy” bobbed a curtsey and fluttered her eyelashes, paying particular attention to Denny, and said, “I have heard so much about you all and much of you, Mr Denny, sir, but indeed no one prepared me for such handsome soldiers nor for such gallantry. I declare I love a redcoat more than I ever knew.”

“She is rather shy,” whispered the Colonel in Denny’s ear, “but I am sure you will put Chamberlayne’s little sister at her ease. Unfortunately, the man himself has had to pop out to see the saddler on business in the town, leaving her to our tender charge. I do not think he will be long, but she has been fretting for him ever since he left.”

Of course “Lucy” was not upset or in the least bit reserved and immediately took to flirting and teasing and making such a play for Mr Denny that his complexion took on the same hue as his scarlet coat. They were all excessively amused to observe how he became increasingly attentive as the morning wore on. How they did not immediately laugh out loud Lydia was unable to account.

“Do tell me all about yourself, Mr Denny,” begged “Lucy,” seating herself next to him in very close proximity on the sofa. “I have heard there is not another soldier so brave as you.”

“I am sure we are all as courageous as one another here, Miss Lucy,” Denny answered, twisting his hat nervously. “May I say what a pleasure it is to be introduced? It is always felicitous to meet with such handsome relations of one’s fellow officers, and indeed, the word handsome does you no credit. I had no idea Chamberlayne had such a beautiful sister. Where has he been hiding you?”

“It is too true, kind sir,” answered “Miss Lucy,” “I have, until recently, been much hidden away at home, but now I have come to Meryton I hope I shall be able to enjoy every society…and your company would be truly beneficial to me I believe, Mr Denny.”
“Do you care to dance?” Denny simpered. “It would be my pleasure to partner you at our party this evening if you would be so kind as to consider a humble soldier’s wishes.”

“Mr Denny!” “Lucy” cried, jumping up excitedly. “I could not wish for anything better; you may engage me for all of my dances,” she declared, forcing all observers to snigger behind hands and into handkerchiefs. They were in stitches Mr Chamberlayne was so convincing, such a talented mimic whose voice was pitched just like a young girl’s.

Mr Wickham, who had not been enjoying the fact that his efforts to attract “Miss Lucy” had been impeded, took over Denny’s part, and it was only when he remarked on the likeness between “Lucy” and her brother that Harriet and Lydia could bear it no longer. They laughed till they thought they should each suffer a seizure, which of course, made the men very suspicious.
“Lucy” broke down and declared that he could not endure such a falsetto modulation any longer but begged he might be allowed to keep the dress on for dancing later, to which there was a vast deal of laughter and jeers of derision. Mr Chamberlayne was made to part with his gown and wash his face before the evening party began. Lydia danced with all the officers, three times with Mr Denny and four with Mr Wickham. Considering the absence of his sweetheart, Mary, Mr Wickham appeared to be in reasonable good humour. Lydia wondered if he had heard that her sister Lizzy was leaving for London at the end of the week and would be back in Longbourn by the middle of next month. Perhaps it was this very fact that had raised his spirits.

Admitting to herself how much she had enjoyed having all of Mr Wickham’s attention to herself for a while, Lydia was forced to confess that the prospect of sharing his company once more with her elder sister was not entirely welcome. Elizabeth had been his favourite once before and could become so again, she was sure.

Although she did not look forward to this unwelcome likelihood, Lydia felt there could not be a happier or more contented creature. Life was good and with friends such as hers, she was certain of constant amusement!

Happy Easter!

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As promised, a very small extract from my new book, Mr Darcy’s Secret!

They were soon off again relieved to know that their destination was not far off. Little over an hour passed before they found themselves winding through an undulating road over low promontories and spacious bays, which gradually rose over the hills. From here Elizabeth grasped Fitzwilliam’s arm in excitement as Winandermere like a majestic river swept along in gentle beauty, the shores and hills as richly wooded as a pleasure ground. Here and there the land opened up through the landscape to the sight of some distant villa, a sign that society had even found its way to this remote corner of England. The weather was showery with sudden bursts of sunshine, the tops of distant mountains concealed in vapour ascending in grey columns. Hues of blue and purple enveloped the tops of hills, whilst lower down shades of olive and brown ranged over craggy heathland and wooded slopes, which appeared to fall into the water like soft, green velvet cushions.

Bellingham Hall came into view at last glimpsed through trees on a gentle eminence of the shore with the silver lake spreading before in all its translucent splendour, crowned beyond by the fells half obscured in clouds. An Elizabethan mansion built around a medieval tower sat in state like a Tudor queen with her richly embroidered skirts displayed on either side in folds of green gardens, both formal and wild, studded with the gold of daffodils. Imposing, but on a much smaller scale than Pemberley, Elizabeth knew immediately that she would feel at home here amongst the Jacobean furniture, the smell of polished oak and the magnificence of Spanish leather adorning the walls embossed with pomegranates, flowers and exotic birds. There seemed to be an endless confusion of winding passages, unexpected rooms, and at least two courtyards to navigate, as well as a breathtakingly beautiful Chinese drawing room hand-painted with peonies and butterflies.
Mrs Reynolds and some of her staff had arrived from Pemberley a couple of days before to ensure that everything was ready for the parties arriving. The house felt warm and comfortable with fires lit in the grates and bowlfuls of flowers filling the air with the scent of spring. In their bedchamber Elizabeth exclaimed with excitement at all she could see within the house and without.

“Are you happy, Mrs Darcy?” Fitzwilliam enquired, catching hold of her as she moved about the room looking into cupboards and drawers as animated as ever and showing no signs of fatigue from her journey.

Her expression told him all he needed to know as she allowed him to sweep her into his arms. The strength of his touch was most comforting and she allowed herself to sink into his embrace.

I’ve missed a little out here because it will give away too much of the plot – but here is how this little scene ends!

“I was just thinking how lucky I am to have a husband who brings me to witness the quiet delights of Westmorland instead of taking me to town. I am so very grateful to you, my darling; I could not have enjoyed myself half so much with all of London society, however diverting. To be here on our own, and with those we love is heaven, indeed. And to add to all of this, we have such beauty before us in every outlook.”
The views through their windows made her catch her breath with wonder. Veils of white mist hung over the lake and on the mountains yonder where the peaks iced with snow almost disappeared into the vapour. The rain had stopped and the day was turning fine; wisps of blue sky lit up by shafts of sunlight descending through the clouds were reflected in the water like an ethereal looking glass.

“I cannot wait to explore everywhere,” said Elizabeth. “Is it not a beautiful sight, Mr Darcy?”

“Indeed, I have rarely seen such beauty,” answered her husband, gazing into her eyes and planting another kiss on her lips.

“I am talking of the view,” she protested half-heartedly with a laugh as he pulled her yet closer.

“Oh, so am I, Mrs Darcy, so am I.”

The top picture is a print of Winandermere about 1810 – now known as Windermere, it is no longer such a quiet retreat as the Darcy’s would have known.
The photo is a view from a bedroom at Brantwood, John Ruskin’s house, overlooking Coniston Water.

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Here, for your delight is an extract from Pride and Prejudice with accompanying photos of Chatsworth! The weather was lovely up until the time I got the camera out – wouldn’t you know. My sister and I visited Derbyshire last year all in pursuit of research – Mr Darcy’s Secret is my next book which Sourcebooks are publishing next spring. We visited Bakewell and the surrounding area – I absolutely fell in love with Haddon Hall which became my inspiration for the house the Darcy’s stay in on holiday in the Lake District. Oh, yes – Elizabeth had to see the Lakes at last! Anyway, here is Jane Austen’s wonderful Pride and Prejudice – Lizzy is travelling with her aunt and uncle and sees Pemberley for the first time.

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!


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Happy Christmas everyone!

I’ve recently finished writing Mr Darcy’s Secret, which is to be published by Sourcebooks. Here’s a small extract with a festive theme. Elizabeth Bennet is married to Mr Darcy and is welcoming her family for the Christmas season to Pemberley for the first time, not without some trepidation!

Christmas Eve and the arrival of the Bennets and Bingleys to Pemberley marked the official start to the festive season. Elizabeth was pleased and surprised at her own feelings on firstly welcoming her parents and two of her sisters, Mary and Kitty, to her new home. For all her newfound happiness and exultation in the success of her marriage, she had not realised until coming face to face with them again, how much she had missed them. It was especially heartening to see her papa again and as he hugged her until she thought she might have no breath left, her feelings took her by surprise. The resulting misting of her eyes she quickly brushed away before his notice provoked a comment.

“I am very glad to see you, Elizabeth, and for this invitation from you and your husband, we are very grateful,” he said, standing back at arm’s length to admire the daughter he loved best. “I have missed you and it does my heart good to see you looking so well.”

Mrs Bennet was, for once, struck quite dumb on their entrance into the hall and did not utter a syllable for the first ten minutes. Her eyes darted everywhere, alighting on the marble floors, staring at the grand curving staircases, the statues in the niches and the paintings adorning the walls and the ceiling. She looked almost frightened and had such an appearance of stupefied shock upon her countenance that Lizzy felt quite concerned.

“Are you quite well, mama?” asked Elizabeth, taking her mother’s hand and rubbing it between her own. “Indeed, you do look very tired. But the journey is such a long one, I know. Come inside and get warm by the fire.”

Mrs Bennet shook her head and spoke at last. “I am astonished, Lizzy. I knew Pemberley must be a great house, but I never expected this; not in all my born days did I expect to see such opulence, such finery! The floor alone must be worth a mint, not to mention the gilded balustrades, the paintings and statues, the drapes, the chairs and settees, and I know not what. And this is only the hall! Lord bless me! I shall have to sit down. And as for the grounds, I thought Christmas would be over before we arrived, so long did it take to get from the road to the house. What a prospect! The finest house, the grandest park, the most magnificent hall that I ever did see. What a pity that Lydia cannot be with us to see it. I know she would have loved to see Pemberley, and dear Wickham too. I’m sure he would have enjoyed seeing his former home.”

“But, mama, though I admire your feelings of benevolence in consideration of Mr and Mrs Wickham’s lack of invitation,” observed Mary, who loved to reflect and sermonize on the folly of others, “in my opinion, such deliberation is ill conceived. If you dwell for just one moment on the real likelihood of such a summons to our misguided sister and her husband from Mr Darcy who we know to be a rational man, you must also know it to be highly improbable.”

“Oh, Mary, hold your tongue. Mrs Wickham can come to Pemberley whenever she likes, whatever you might think on the matter,” rejoined Mrs Bennet loudly, with an expression of exasperation.

Mrs Gardiner advanced quickly to reach Mrs Bennet’s side to greet her and divert the course of conversation just as Mr Darcy entered the hall to welcome his guests. He had thought it prudent to allow Elizabeth a little time with her parents and sisters before he came on the scene. His manners were as impeccable as ever and Mrs Bennet became quite girlish in her manner at his attentions, patting her curls and looking at him under her lashes. When Lizzy was able she could not resist catching her husband’s eye, raising her own heavenwards. She felt such a mixture of pride and love for all that he represented to her, the man who in disposition and talents suited her to perfection.

No sooner were the Bennet family installed dispatched to become acquainted with their rooms over which Mrs Bennet was soon exclaiming, not only at the size, but also at the number assigned to them, than Elizabeth’s sister, Jane Bingley, her husband, and his sister arrived. Never was a reunion more joyful between two sisters who adored one another and who had never before in their lives been separated for so long. Jane still had the glow of a new bride about her and Lizzy was overjoyed to see Bingley again. Elizabeth was not so pleased to see Mr Bingley’s sister Caroline, who had in the past been the cause of a temporary rift between Jane and her husband during their courting days, not only separating them but informing Jane of her wish that her brother be married to Miss Darcy. But she received her with much civility, which in the circumstances was highly gratifying, as she recalled with a certain glee that Caroline had at one time fancied that she might take on the role of the mistress of Pemberley herself. How very satisfying it was to be addressed by Caroline Bingley as Mrs Darcy.

“My dear, Mrs Darcy, how splendid it is to see you again. It is exceedingly kind of you to invite me to Pemberley for Christmas, which, as I am sure you have heard is always unsurpassed in both hospitality, and by its splendour.” She turned to Mr Darcy who was regarding her with what Elizabeth had come to recognise as the expression he reserved for those he could not tolerate; a look of polite indifference, but happily, undetected by the person on whom it was bestowed. “Oh, Mr Darcy, we have enjoyed one or two merry Christmases together, have we not? Such parties and balls, that I have been quite spoiled forever. I do not think I shall ever enjoy such entertainments again. But, forgive me, Mrs Darcy, you are hosting a grand ball on the morrow, are you not? What felicities we shall enjoy, I cannot wonder. Do you remember, Mr Darcy, when Reynolds fetched out the old fancy costumes from the attic and we dressed up? I thought I should die laughing when I saw you as Robin Hood and I was Little Bo-Peep, as I hark back. What fun we had. Do you recall, Georgiana? You were the sweetest lamb, all in white with a pink ribbon on your tail.”

Miss Bingley, having found a willing listener in Georgiana immediately led her away talking at the top of her voice about the wondrous parties of the past.

Elizabeth was starting to feel quite sick with nerves at the prospect of the coming ball. She did so want it to be a success and whispering into Mr Darcy’s ear when the others were busily engaged in directing the servants with their luggage, said, “Oh dear, do you suppose we should have had a fancy costume ball?”

To which came the rapid answer, “Absolutely not. The whole idea was of Miss Bingley’s engineering and I loathed every minute of it. I absolutely forbid fancy costume balls to be held at Pemberley ever again!”

I hope you and your families all have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season and wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!
Jane Odiwe

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